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Agency Email Alerts and Bulletins Dropped Sharply During Shutdown


This story has been updated to reflect the end of the government shutdown.

Mass emails from government agencies to citizens dropped by more than four-fifths during the partial government shutdown that was sparked by a budget impasse Oct. 1 and drew to a close late Wednesday.

The company GovDelivery manages email alert and bulletin systems for about half of federal agencies. Those emails can range from science agencies’ newsletters to storm alerts from the National Weather Service.

During the last full week before the shutdown began, GovDelivery’s systems sent more than 650,000 government emails to more than 66 million subscribers on behalf of 170 federal organizations, according to figures supplied by the company.

During the week of Oct. 6, when the shutdown was in full swing, GovDelivery sent fewer than 1,200 emails to just 17 million subscribers from fewer than 75 federal organizations, the company said.

The organizations that continued to send messages were mostly within the Defense and Homeland Security departments or the military services, GovDelivery spokeswoman Michelle Musburger said.

The top message senders in government typically focus in health and weather information, according to a GovDelivery infographic. The Health and Human Services Department and the Commerce Department, which oversees the National Weather Service, both furloughed more than half of their employees during the shutdown.

Government communications via Web updates and social media also declined significantly during the shutdown.

GovDelivery declined to give agency-specific information about shutdown email traffic, but offered two anonymized examples. According to the company:

One agency that “typically deals with emergencies” sent out:

  • 73 bulletins to more than 2.2 million stakeholders the week of Sept. 22
  • 62 bulletins to more than 1.8 million stakeholders the week of Sept. 29
  • And just 37 bulletins to about 615,000 stakeholders the week of Oct. 6

Another agency that “typically deals with aerospace and technology” sent out:

  • 21 bulletins to more than 4.3 million stakeholders the week of Sept. 22
  • 6 bulletins to just over 1 million stakeholders the week of Sept. 29
  • And no bulletins at all the week of Oct. 6


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(Image via alexmillos/

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